Judging from the calendar, we are in the thick of picnic season, or for me, toss-everything-with-mayonnaise-and-maybe-eat-it-at-a-picnic-but-probably-just-straight-from-the-fridge season. My last post notwithstanding, I almost didn’t realize it; after years in New York, where I spent the first third-to-half of each year in an intense and unceasing scrutiny of the weather for any sign of warmth, California has lulled me into a kind of constant seasonal befuddlement, where I never know what season it is but I just know that it is giddily, euphorically not cold.
That said, the current source of my seasonal confusion is an insistent gray outside my office window (hello, June gloom), and judging from what I hear from my friends back on the East Coast, it seems like neither of us is enjoying prime picnic weather just yet. But we can’t be too far from sunny days on either coast, so I think we should just will it into being by eating like it’s here — in other words, with more mayo-based, picnic-perfect “salads.”
This week, I decided to call a spade a spade, so they’re just “potatoes,” but they are an assortment of all the things I want in an unapologetically ersatz-salad. The potatoes are baby reds, which are nice and creamy, and — to my superficial delight — a pretty shade of dusky purple when cloaked in dressing. They jockey with hard-boiled eggs, non-negotiable in my potato salad; I can never resist the cheerful bounce that the egg whites add to the texture, or the accidental gribiche-like effect that the yolks lend to the dressing once they’re folded in. Then there are pickled shallots, which I’ve loved ever since I came across Lindsey’s recipe, and which have a brightness and acidity that balance out the creamy salad but a mellow sweetness that comes from their quick brine. There’s dill for a little grassy pique and a savory-sweet dressing made from mayonnaise, Greek yogurt, nose-tickling mustard, a little honey, and plenty of black pepper. And last, my very favorite part, there’s an overabundance of sugar snap peas — delightfully crunchy, so sweet they’re almost like candy, and charming in shape, like little vegetal polka dots, when sliced thin. Tossed together, it is the kind of thing I find myself lauding all too frequently on this space — both sweet and savory, complex with textures that range from crunchy to creamy, bright and fresh but a little comforting, too. I am nothing if not predictable.
Pickled shallots lightly adapted from Lindsey's lovely recipe.
- For the pickled shallots:
- 2 shallots, sliced thin
- 1 cup filtered water
- ⅓ cup rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 4-5 whole black peppercorns
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 thyme sprig
- For the rest:
- 2 pounds baby red potatoes, scrubbed and halved (or quartered, if large)
- 1 tablespoon salt, plus more as needed
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- ¼ cup mayonnaise
- ¼ cup full-fat Greek yogurt
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill, plus more for garnish
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon honey (optional)
- about ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper (or more or less, to taste)
- 1-2 cups (about 8 to 12 ounces) sliced sugar snap peas
- 4 large hard-boiled eggs, peeled and sliced
- ¼ cup finely sliced scallions (about 2 to 3 scallions), for garnish
- One hour or a day ahead: Place the shallots in a 1-quart Mason jar or sealable container. In a small saucepan, combine the water, vinegar, sugar, salt, peppercorns, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil over high heat, then lower the heat to medium-low and let simmer for 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, place the shallots and thyme in a 1-quart Mason jar or sealable heat-proof container. When it’s ready, pour the pickling liquid over the shallots and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and ideally overnight.
- The day of: Place the potatoes in a pot with enough cold water to cover them by one inch. Bring to a boil, add the salt, and reduce the heat to medium. Simmer until a paring knife slides through the potatoes without resistance, about 6-8 minutes. (I like to cook them just shy of fork-tender, so that they don't fall apart when tossing them with everything else.)
- Drain the potatoes and transfer them to a large bowl. Add the vinegar and, using a silicone spatula (these are my favorite), toss gently to combine. Let stand until the potatoes are just warm, about 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, yogurt, dill, mustard, honey (if using), and black pepper until smooth. Using a silicone spatula, gently fold the shallots, sugar snap peas, and eggs into the potatoes, then fold in about two-thirds of the dressing. If it is too dry for your tastes, add the remaining dressing until it reaches your desired consistency. Adjust seasonings to taste, then cover and refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes to one hour. Serve cool, with scallions and dill on top. Potato salad can be covered and refrigerated for up to 1 day.